Screened Out – The Huntsman: Winter’s War

By : Stephen Miller
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Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Emily Blunt, Jessica Chastain, Nick Frost, Liam Neeson

Given that these movies are really only about effects, costumes, and fights – not good, solid, emotional storytelling – Winter’s War could’ve been worse. It also could’ve been much, much better.

Let’s start with the fact that everything is motivated when an ice queen, Freya (Blunt), bans love. She can control the weather (like Ice Man meets Game of Thrones) but she’s pretty stupid when it comes to human nature. She may steal people’s children and raise them as her own – into super-soldiers – but her ideas are so flimsy and her character so flat that even her subjects must laugh behind her neurotic back.

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Screened Out – Crimson Peak

By : Stephen Miller
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Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver

Every Halloween season – and sometimes beyond – we ache for scares. Maybe some of us like the gore of a bloody, severed limb; others long for the creepy feeling of cold gooseflesh on the backs of our necks. Guillermo del Toro would seem the perfect director to do the latter (Pan’s Labyrinth). Alas, his Crimson Peak is more moods than intrigue, more art direction than directed plot.

“Beware of Crimson Peak!” an apparition direly warns…twice. Perhaps this portent of doom was aimed at the audience.

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Screened Out – The Martian

By : Stephen Miller
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Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Peña, Sean Bean, Aksel Hennie, Sebastian Stan, Daniel Glover

Visually stunning, intellectually intriguing, and emotionally charged, The Martian is a fiercely appealing story of survival. It’s also director Ridley Scott return to form – jettisoning gravitas for entertainment, injecting heart into his pictures again.

It’s all based on Andy Weir’s wonderful best-selling novel. This is the type of adaptation authors probably pray for – smart, tight, and full of life, energy, tension, and humor.

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Screened Out – Interstellar

By : Stephen Miller
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Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Topher Grace, Mackenzie Foy, Timothée Chalame, Casey Affleck, Wes Bentley, John Lithgow

Interstellar is a melodramatic sci-fi quest that taps into our fears of self-destruction and our hopes for redemption. Certain scenes occur in a cornfield; this entire flick has some corn sprinkled throughout it.

I admit I wasn’t expected this sort of sappiness from Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception). He always makes thought-provoking pieces; Interstellar is no exception. However, this space epic also has quite a bit of emotional drip about it, too – poetry quoting, repeated apologizing. The acting is committed, and the scenery and technical aspects amazing. Yet Interstellar – at 2 hours and 49 minutes – tries too hard to make us cry. Repeatedly.

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